Clemson earns vital home win vs. erratic Pitt before road stretch

I’m not sure if either Clemson or Pittsburgh will wind up in this season’s NCAA Tournament, but I do know the Tigers absolutely needed to win Wednesday night to keep their case legitimate.

North Carolina is commanding the ACC (7-0), but Clemson is keeping pace with a 6-2 record after winning 73-60 at home over a Pittsburgh team that still has a slew of skeptics. The victory is Clemson’s sixth in its past seven. The Tigers are now 13-7 and have done a near-180 on their season. The victory means a lot because Clemson has been able to protect its home floor in league play and now comes a three-game road stretch with tilts against Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.

None of those teams project to the NCAAs, but it’s too much to ask Clemson to sweep the three. One win is minimally mandated; two would be advised.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 20 points Wednesday. He’s Clemson’s best player, and is fighting his way toward first-team All-ACC status. Pitt shot 39 percent from the field and was carried by Michael Young’s 25 points. At this point, you would have to say Clemson is in better shape than Pitt even thought Pitt has three more wins and three fewer losses.

Pitt’s best victories are over Syracuse, Notre Dame and Florida State. The only bad loss is against NC State, but it is a loss by 17 points at home against a Wolfpack team that’s 1-6 in the league. What a wart.

Clemson has wins over Louisville, Duke and Miami. But also owns a home loss to Alabama and fell at Minnesota and on a neutral court to UMass. Not great, but as of late, Clemson looks like the better team. This was the only meeting this season between these teams. It’s unlikely it will wind up being a deciding game, should both teams live life on the bubble into early March. But if it does, a seemingly nondescript Jan. 27 outcome could wind up being one of the more impactful endings in the ACC this season.

Donte Grantham did a little of everything for Clemson on Wednesday night. (USATSI)

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